When Mike Toomey walked into the George Washington locker room to tell his baseball team he was leaving in the middle of the season to manage the Alexandria Dukes, he was as nervous as he has ever been in his life.
"It was the toughest thing I've ever done," said the 28-year-old Toomey, who was chosen to manage the minor league club Monday.
"But the guys came up to me and told me they understood why I was leaving and wished me the best. It was very comforting to hear that. We have some fine players and it's tough leaving in the middle of the year.
"But I think they understand getting in pro ball has always been a major objective of mine," said Toomey, who played at St. John's, Bullis, Montgomery JC and GW. "This was just an opportunity I couldn't turn down. Who knows when I'll get another shot at managing in the pros?"
The Class A Dukes open their Carolina League season tonight in Salem, Va. The home opener is scheduled for Tuesday against Lynchburg.
As an independent, the Dukes were 58-75 in '78. Last year, they operated as an affiliate of Seattle and were 74-62 as the Alexandria mariners.
The managing vacancy opened up when Bobby Floyd moved up to the Mariners' AA farm club.
"Mike called us in December and told us he was interested in joining us in a coaching capacity," said Rick Holt, Dukes' general manager. "This year, we are a co-op farm team, not owned by anyone, so the decision of who we hire is up to us."
A physical education teacher at the elementary school level before taking over the GW job, Toomey leaves George Washington midway through his fifth season.
"Mike is a popular, local guy," said Holt "and he was successful at GW. We're pleased he decided to manage the club."
His teams compiled a 102-82 record at GW and last year won the Eastern Eight and ECAC Eastern Region championship. The '79 team also won a school-record 35 games, losing 14, and earned an NCAA Eastern Region bid -- before bowing out in the double-elimination tournament in Florida.
Toomey had little time to reflect on his good fortune once chosen: he had only three days to get a team on the field, drawing on the talent from several major league teams, including the New York Yankees (who supply nine players) and the Baltimore Orioles.
"We don't have long to get things together," said Toomey. "We have guys coming in every day from everywhere. I have to get a line on them as quick as possible. We'll keep things simple. I know a couple of guys and I've seen a couple of others play. My assistant, Elwood Holland, will be a great help to me."
Holland, former Paint Branch and Howard University player, will serve in a player-coach capacity. He has played for Alexandria two seasons.
"I got a big break coaching at GW," said Toomey. "I even got a bigger break here at the Dukes. I realize the team hasn't been that successful but in baseball you don't know what will happen. I love the game and am elated to get the chance to manage a pro team."